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BROAD WELCOME FOR OFSTED'S FUTURE OF INSPECTION PLANS

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Consultation results show three out of four support new school ...
Consultation results show three out of four support new school

inspection framework proposals.

Plans for a radical overhaul of the school inspection system have

been welcomed by schools and parents, according to a new report

published by the Office for Standards in Education and the Department

for Education and Skills today.

Three quarters of respondents to Ofsted's future of inspection

consultation document, published in February 2004, supported the

proposals for shorter, more frequent school inspections at less

notice. Ofsted received a total of 1,377 responses to consultation,

with 63% of responses coming from schools and 9% from parents.

Chief inspector of schools, David Bell, said:

'After 12 years of Ofsted inspections, millions of pupils have

benefited from improvements in the quality and standard of education

in our schools. It is now time to build on the progress achieved

over the last decade by moving to a lighter touch, but equally

rigorous inspection regime with school self-evaluation at its heart.'

The original proposals, part of the government's drive to modernise

the accountability of schools and to create a new, more professional

relationship with schools, outlined Ofsted's plans to introduce

shorter, sharper, inspections focused on helping schools improve

while reducing the burden of inspection, and ensuring that parents

benefit from more timely and relevant school reports.

During consultation, Ofsted sought views on its intention to:

* inspect schools at least every three years to ensure parents

benefit from more up-to-date information about the quality of

education received by their child

* significantly cut the length of inspections to reduce the burden on

schools

* reduce the notification period ahead of inspection to the shortest

possible period to allow inspectors a 'warts-and-all' view of the

school

* assess the contribution of the school to the outcomes for children

and young people set out in Every Child Matters

The DfES and Ofsted, today published A New Relationship With Schools

highlighting updated proposals for the government's new relationship

with schools and the future of inspection. The report adds more

detail to the shape and outline of inspection following the results

of the public consultation. Key new features incorporated in the

proposed framework include:

* giving between two and five working days' notice before an

inspection to ensure reports give a real, unvarnished view of the

school. In exceptional cases, inspectors may turn up unannounced;

* using a clear four-point grading scale in reports, and simplifying

the approach to schools causing concern: keeping the current approach

to schools that need special measures but introducing a new

improvement notice for other schools where there are weaknesses;

* a greater emphasis on school self-evaluation. The focus of a school

inspection will be driven by the strengths and weaknesses identified

by a school in its self-evaluation form which will replace the four

short forms that schools are currently required to complete prior to

inspection;

* the publication of inspection reports to schools within three weeks

of inspection, compared to four to five months at present;

* Her Majesty's Inspectors playing a role in all school inspections;

* the inspection of curriculum areas via a rolling program of

'subject-focused studies' with a full report on each subject every

two to three years. For each study a sample of schools will be

selected to reflect sector, size, phase and different geographical

areas.

Today's report also highlights Ofsted's plans to ensure parental

involvement in the school inspection process. Early pilot

inspections are trialling methods including web page forums and

inviting parents to write to inspectors at the school.

Ofsted is conducting a number of pilot inspections in 14 local

education authorities to test the proposals in the future of

inspection consultation document. One headteacher of a pilot school

said:

'The inspection was a positive experience for us. We welcomed the

team's openness in sharing the initial notes and in meeting regularly

with the senior management team to discuss findings and clarify

issues.

'The team's methodology involved us as partners in the inspection

process to a greater extent than before. We felt that our

professional assessments (as expressed in the self-evaluation form

and during the inspection) were understood and respected.

'Even though the inspection was shorter, it was rigorous and clearly

focused and the team's observations were perceptive and informative.

The feedback was stimulating and has already improved work on

developments to move the school forward.'

Pilots will continue over the summer and early autumn before Ofsted

launches a further consultation on the details of the inspection

process. Subject to parliamentary approval, new inspections could

start from September 2005.

Mr Bell added:

'Information about schools has become more sophisticated over recent

years. It is time that the school inspection system evolves to

reflect this. Today's proposals will help reduce the burden on

schools whilst ensuring that parents benefit from more frequent

information about the quality and standard of education provided by

schools. I am confident that our new plans for inspection will be a

force for improvement in our schools.'

A New Relationship with Schools

Speechby David Bell at the launch of A New Relationship with Schools

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